The Jackass Effect
Here's a little tid-bit worth musing about:
In the days leading up to Obama's announcement of his Supreme Court nominee, polling suggested voters were not very focused on the potential candidate's gender or race. According to a CNN poll released over a week ago, very few said it was important to have a Hispanic or black nominee. And almost as many women (58%) as men (65%) said it was not important for Obama to pick a woman. A Gallup poll from around the same time showed similar results.
But, now that Sonia Sotomayor has been named, a new Gallup poll shows a gender gap has emerged. Of the last four nominees, she has the largest gender gap in support. There isn't male animosity toward Sotomayor, as they are evenly divided on her nomination. However, women are overwhelmingly supportive (54% excellent/good idea, 25% only fair/poor), with three times as many finding her an "excellent" pick as a "poor" one.
Gallup suggests this gap could stem from gender differences in party identification. But the gender gap in party identification has been consistent for some time, yet only Alito also evoked a gender gap (a smaller one, in the opposite direction). And it is not simply the nomination of any woman that spurs a gap, as Harriet Miers was not any more popular with women. It is likely the combination of both the nomination of a woman, and women's Democratic proclivities that produce the gap.
I wouldn't discount The Tweety Effect. All the rancid talk about her alleged racism has been accompanied by a strong dose of sexism, particularly the whisper campaign about her "unseemly" temperament. As Greenwald says, federal judges are often anything but shrinking violets. They tend toward the imperious, as authority figures with lifetime tenure tend to do. When Scalia treats lawyers to a thorough grilling, he's just putting them through their paces and demonstrating his own strongly held convictions. When a woman does it, she's just a domineering bitch on wheels. This is a familiar double standard for working women everywhere.
A lot of the criticism toward this highly accomplished, qualified woman has run along those familiar lines. There's been no dearth of those who say she isn't all that bright starting with the Jeffrey Rosen blind gossip piece. Pat Buchanan put it most pithily: "the lady is a lightweight."
He also called her a racist so the soup of derision and contempt from the right gets all mixed up with their various hatreds and insecurities. But it's also quite telling that the thing that has everyone of all political stripes up in arms is that she once mused that she thought an Hispanic female would make better decisions than a white male because of her life experience. That comment is considered so outrageous that she's being compared to David Duke. In my mind, the fact that all these elites are so upset over something that is impossible to quantify since there are almost no Hispanic females in a position to prove whether or not it's true is far more interesting than the fact that she said it.
Obviously, there is also no way to know if any of this discussion is affecting the gender gap in the polls. It probably stems mostly from a feeling of pride in her achievements and gratitude that she's willing to fight the good fight. But I would guess that a lot of women also instinctively feel that the mere fact that there is only one woman on the Supreme Court and zero Hispanics demonstrates that this victimization fantasy among a group of over-privileged jackasses is a bit much.
When I see these conservative men on television bleating plaintively that the president shouldn't have chosen a Latina federal judge but rather chosen "the best person for the job," I can't help but burst out laughing at the total lack of self-awareness such comments illustrate. It's clear they believe that 96% of all Supreme Court judges having been white males simply shows that white males are more qualified than anyone else. It's hilarious.